Padres Prospects: The All-Injured squad

All the players on this list either were beset by injuries making their 2005 season tough to grade, coming back from significant ailments and needing the year to re-acclimate themselves to the game or were hurt late, making their futures cloudy. Many would have been perfect fits in the top 60 Padres' prospects but will only appear here because of the unknown nature of injuries and the ability for a prospect to bounce back.

No one is ready to bag and tag these players just yet. Injuries are simply the unknown of baseball. It could take a week, a year, or three years before a player becomes the player we all envisioned. The hope, obviously, is all will reach their potential.

For now, each has a question mark to address.

1. Tagg Bozied

The slugging first baseman came back from a serious knee injury and hit three homers in his first game with Double-A Mobile. But a back injury ended his year prematurely when he was promoted to Portland.

Bozied possesses hitting ability that is unmatched within the system. He has immense raw power, can hit to all fields and is patient at the plate. He is also a solid defender at first base.

His injury questions have caused some to question whether he will return to the player that was on the threshold of a Major League call-up. But he is working out in the outfield and appears to be over the hump, but a 4-for-31 stretch in Instructs wasn't the offense he has shown in the past. If he swings the bat as he did in 2004, Bozied will find a home in the Majors – and quickly.

2. Freddy Guzman

Revered for his speed, Guzman lost the year to an elbow injury that required reconstructive surgery.

He had earned a 20-game stint with the Padres in 2004 but did not show an ability to get on base consistently. His ability to steal bases makes him an asset to the club. Pitchers would fear him as he dances around first base. It was in 2003 that he nabbed 90 thefts.

He has been hailed as an option in the spacious outfield of centerfield and has the legs to roam. His arm is below average but the ground he is able to cover makes up for it. He brings the gift of swiftness everywhere he goes and if he can show an on base percentage of .340 he could quickly be a Padre.

3. Rusty Tucker

The left-handed reliever was on the fast track to the Majors before the 2004 season was wiped out. Today, he might have been talked about as the replacement for Trevor Hoffman. Instead, he is trying to regain his form.

Tucker returned in 2005 but it wasn't a year that saw him dominate as in year's past. His development has always been slightly hindered by his command and losing a couple of ticks off his fastball didn't help.

As a lefty who once hit 99 on the radar gun, the free pass has just been granted. When he misses his spots, it can no longer be over the fat part of the plate or he will continue to get hammered. A good year and he is in the top ten and Tucker has the determination to make it happen.

4. Steve Baker

This might be strange to some people considering he played in nearly a full slate of games between the California League and Southern League. But what we did not see consistently was an ability to take the ball deep.

As a corner outfielder, Baker's ultimate success will be tied to his stick. After a midseason shoulder injury in 2004, Baker hit over .300 between two leagues this season. But his low walk totals and low homer totals aren't inspiring.

Last year he had to dedicate most of his off-season to getting healthy again and regaining strength. This year it should be based around building strength to give him more drive on the ball.

5. Ryan Klatt

Another victim of some guy named Tommy John. A 38th round pick, he was pitching like a first rounder before the injury.

He saw mixed results after returning to the field in June. He has the ability to mix in three pitches but really had trouble bearing down with men on base.

His biggest obstacle may be himself as he will take the poor outing a little too hard. It will be a mental test for him to take his game back to the level it was. Heart is a tough thing to measure but Klatt knows there is nothing else he would rather do. That alone could propel him to success.

6. Luke Steidlmayer

There was no more frustrating year than 2004 for Steidlmayer. He was back, then he wasn't. Tried again and down once more. But this year he had a reawakening.

He began the year as a reliever, dominating there, before joining the rotation. He earned a promotion and then another before settling into Lake Elsinore. And the 125 innings he threw were just 25 shy of his three year totals in the system.

At the tail end of the year, Steidlmayer suffered a different setback, a sore forearm in his right arm that required a stint on the DL. He will resume throwing this month – but is this setback the one that pushes him to the limit. He may need a cautiously optimistic approach in the future to stay on the healthy side – and when he is on he is keeping hitters off-balance and limiting their opportunities.

7. Adam Bourassa

Released from Bakersfield, Bourassa was a centerpiece of the Lake Elsinore Storm – before a hand injury claimed his year.

He was originally viewed as a plug-in, a stopgap until someone else arrived. It turned out his game was the most dynamic piece of the Storm's season. It is no coincidence that the day after he left the lineup, the Storm went on to lose 15 straight.

Bourassa was a catalyst at the top of the lineup and talked about staying healthy early in the year. Just when his confidence was at an all-time high, the injury occurred. How will he respond is the question? If he can recapture the tools he displayed in Lake Elsinore, look out. But the injury could be playing tricks on him – making him believe the year he was having was an aberration.

8. Vern Sterry

There are several players who have that type of moxie it takes to take their game to the next level. He may not have the electric stuff, but Vern Sterry believes he can get anyone out and it is on his terms.

Sterry was pushed back into the starting role prior to his season ending and is most comfortable in that role. Rotator cuff tendonitis, however, brought his season to a close.

He has an above average changeup and has the mental makeup to challenge hitters. But finding out the limitations after a serious injury often changes how a pitcher approaches the game. Keeping the intensity up will test his thought process and tell us what we need to know about his future.

9. Jodam Rivera

Anytime a player who is just 19 faces injury for the first time, there is no telling how they will react. Rivera played in a month of games before his season ended.

The switch-hitter can play multiple positions on the infield, playing shortstop at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, second base this season and even seeing outfield time a year ago.

Rivera was back for the Padres' Instructs and got 29 at bats but netted just three hits while drawing five walks. The first injury – hopefully it isn't a sign of more to come.

10. Javier Martinez

Another year and sadly another injury. TJ made his visit to Martinez after the righty made 15 starts with the Storm. It seemed he was finally beginning to turn the corner and realize his potential.

But it was not to be and his injury history does not inspire confidence. The Padres know he has talent but are frustrated by his inability to stay healthy.

Setbacks aren't really an option for Martinez when he returns to health. It will be all or nothing at that point and the mental game won't be allowed to cloud his vision as it often can.

11. Jordan Pickens

It was a shoulder last year and various injuries this past season that continue to hamper Pickens' development. If there was one saving grace it was the confidence Rick Renteria showed in him when he put him in as a starter in the Championship round after missing a smattering of games.

Soreness in his knee cost him part of the year and his shoulder was again a problem. It is the third year in a row that Pickens has fought through medical problems. His shoulder will forever be an issue and he knows it. Dealing with that on a yearly basis – at some point it becomes too much.

To his credit, he has had bouts of consistent play mixed in over the last two years. If he can harness it and stay healthy over a full season, Pickens has the intangibles you like in an outfielder.

12. Murray Hopley

The Australian infielder underwent Tommy John Surgery, missing the entire 2005 season after being signed from Down Under. He is in the final stages of his rehab and should be fine for Spring Training. Having only talked with him, he is among the toughest to grade as he has never truly suited up for competition. But his age is a plus and it will be interesting to see his game.

13. Daniel Moore

It is hard to believe he is still around. No expectations have been placed on the former second round pick and it is hard to evaluate just where he can go.

The Padres were enamored with his electric stuff – and being a lefty helped. But the electric chair has been the most commonly analogy with his career. He pitched to five batters in the Padres' instructs, allowing one hit and whiffing two.

Having not seen him in two years, who knows what he can bring, if anything, to the table.

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